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Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Liathach Traverse (bypass path)


Postby trickeyja » Sat Aug 28, 2010 8:41 pm

Route description: Liathach, Glen Torridon

Munros included on this walk: Mullach an Rathain (Liathach), Spidean a'Choire Leith (Liathach)

Date walked: 23/07/2010

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 11 km

Ascent: 1300m

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The next and final installment from my cycling and hiking trip round Scotland.

***

I was up and packed early in the morning. By 10am, after cycling to the bottom of Liathach and locking my bike in some nearby woodland, I was ready to start climbing. The ascent from the car park was long and steep with a few bits of very easy scrambling. I met two walkers on the way up, and noticed they were refilling with water from the burn. Having never drunk water from a stream before, I enquired as to how safe a practise this was, and they persuaded me it was fine and that I’d regret not refilling when I could because there would be no water on the summit ridge. Being a very warm day (for Scotland), I followed their advice and indulged in very refreshing, icy cold mountain spring water – my first taste of a Scottish mountain!

My tent in the morning, at Torridon's free campsite
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View down Glen Torridon
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View from the steep path upwards
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When I reached the summit ridge, the views really opened out. Leviathan mountains – Beinn Alligin and Beinn Eighe – stood as isolated giants separated from Liathach by incised valleys. I soon reached the first and highest of Liathach’s two munro tops, Spidean a’ Choire Leith, to witness an incredible panorama. Mountains and hills stretched as far as the eye could see into the distance, interspersed with lakes and valleys. To the west, the sea appeared – The Minch – with Skye ashore and the Outer Hebrides far beyond.

Atop the summit ridge
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View to Liathach's first top
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Mighty Beinn Eighe
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Rocky walking on Liathach
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Beinn Alligin and Beinn Dearg (middle distance, L-R)
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View from Liathach
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Liathach, Beinn Alligin and Skye
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Stunning Panoramic Views
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The end of Liathach, Beinn Eighe behind
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Beinn Eighe
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View to the pinnacles of Liathach
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Vast hill country
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View to Mullach an Rathain
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Expansive wild views
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The mighty bulk of Beinn Eighe, middle distance
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Liathach’s notorious pinnacles looked terrifying from above, ominously looming on the path ahead. I pondered whether to continue, and decided that I would push on, but take the bypass path instead of climbing over the sharp arête. Having been scared witless the previous week on Arran’s A’Chir ridge, I wasn’t prepared to risk any more potentially dangerous scrambling (even though A’Chir was graded as being more difficult).

Dramatic drop off the side of the bypass path
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Casually peering down the 1000m edge (bike hidden in the trees down there)
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The first of Liathach's pinnacles
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View from the bypass path
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Dramatic Valley
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View back to Spidean a' Choire Leith
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Sheer drops and knife-edge hills
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The bypass, although very exposed on the left hand side did not pose too many difficulties, although there were some slightly precarious stretches were gullies had eroded down the mountainside. After the pinnacles were passed, it was a simple walk to the second Munro top, Mullach an Rathain. This brought equally superb views to those from the earlier summit, embellished further by the blue expanse of Upper Loch Torridon, its ragged edges visible below.

Looking back across the pinnacles of Liathach
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Leviathan Hills
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Spectacular Mountains
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Upper Loch Torridon
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The ragged sides of Upper Loch Torridon
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The descent path down Liathach was pretty horrendous! The path was heavily eroded by wind, weather and years of trampling. It declined steeply on gravel-like sediment, and I was unable to achieve a firm foothold, so crawled using my hands and feet with my back facing the mountainside. After a few hundred metres (which seemed to take forever) something more akin to a proper path appeared and thereafter the descent was straightforward. The walk took about 6.5 hours and was really enjoyable – breaktaking – in the fine weather.

Wild mountains viewed from Liathach
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The path down the mountain - see area of scree in top right - that's the path!
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I returned to my bike and cycled on to Kinlochewe, where I stopped at a garage and treated myself to an ice-cream and some snacks. Some walkers I’d met on the hill earlier were surprised to see me and asked how I was doing. The walk had tired me considerably, and they commented that I seemed tired – they were knackered as well. Despite being exhausted after Liathach I managed to cycle on to Poolewe, 30 miles up the coast. This was a spectacular route, filled with dramatic mountain vistas – such as Slioch towering over Loch Maree – and scenic coastal views later on. I would have appreciated the views more had I not been so tired! My reason for persisting in the evening was that I was determined to go the extra distance to Durness on the North Coast of Scotland, which I had heard would be a spectacular journey (albeit two days’ detour). I therefore wanted to make as much progress northwards as possible before dark.

Loch Clair
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Slioch towering over Loch Maree
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Views over Loch Maree
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With no charge on my phone, I was forced to look for a telephone box in order to ring home. At Gairloch I found a payphone, but BT are absolutely useless: their box would not accept coins, and when I tried to pay by card I found that there was no card slot; furthermore when I tried to ring an operator the phone was inoperable! I gave up, and kept going along the coast. At Poolewe I stopped at a campsite, and although I was intending to wild camp somewhere, I thought I’d better go to the posh campsite so I could do my laundry and charge the phone. At £8.20 it was the most I’d had to pay for a campsite on my trip so far, but I was in need of fresh clothes and a comfortable night, in any case.

After I’d pitched up, some kind caravanners invited me inside for a cup of coffee and cheese on toast! Luxury! I told them all about my adventures and showed them my pictures. Apparently they had overtaken me earlier, up the hill from Gairloch. It was great to have some company, and their kindness really made my day.
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby gaffr » Sat Aug 28, 2010 9:24 pm

Many thanks....some really fine images there of the Torridon mountains. You even managed to get Baosbheinn and Beinnan Eoin into the image with Alligan and Beinn Dearg.
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby HighlandSC » Sat Aug 28, 2010 9:31 pm

Yep, some great pics there - one of the best Liathach/Torridon reports I've seen. All your reports from your tour around have been great 8)
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby rocket-ron » Sat Aug 28, 2010 9:36 pm

Awesome photos. Love your report very enjoyable
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby metafor » Sat Aug 28, 2010 9:56 pm

Yes well done indeed! Truly some ( all! ) incredible photos, quite interesting to see that one of them suffers from the dreaded blue haze just like quite a lot of mine! can't understand why it happens , you see an excellant view in front of you - click! - you get home - upload your photos to your PC - and then you start scratching your head wondering what happened to that one? that one's ok, so's that one, there's another one . Is it perchance the very bright sunlight at that particular moment/angle? Here's one I done earlier
100_1630.jpg
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby Stretch » Sat Aug 28, 2010 10:00 pm

Stunning stuff indeed! Very jealous of your adventure, what a trip!
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby trickeyja » Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:30 am

Thanks for all your comments :)
metafor - not sure what causes the blue mountains effect, but ideally I think you need a polarising filter to stop it from happening (I don't have one).
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby metafor » Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:02 pm

Thanks Trickyja!
Will check out your advice ( I have noticed that my camera lens is threaded so a filter could be possible )
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby skuk007 » Sun Aug 29, 2010 6:10 pm

A graduated filter would maybe help too. Too much contrast between a bright sky and a dark foreground.
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby mountain coward » Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:27 pm

Stunning (scary) pics there! Yeah - probably the best I've seen on here too! But it looks a b*** awful route - I'm pretty sure I won't be doing either the pinnacles or the bypass path but will have to do the 2 ends separately :( You said it was easy scrambling up onto the east end of the ridge - was it exposed? Anybody got any pics of the scrambling on the ascent path? That corrie always looks impossible to get out of to me and I'm sure descending back into it will be a nightmare!

I defo won't be going up or down the route you took at the other end though, preferring to go all the way down the Sgor a Chadail ridge instead - much better route I think! The other's just a shortcut surely?
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby houdi » Mon Aug 30, 2010 9:58 am

Brilliant pics Trickeyja and much better than mine as my battery went dead on my all new singing and dancing Lumix camera and I got none of the stunning views of Loch Torridon from Mulach an Rathain. I found the pinnacles very easy, to be honest. I went over all of them end to end, even the small ones, but they do zig-zag about all over the place compared with those on An Teallach. The main pinnacle is actually very easy as it's nice and wide with lots of different ways to tackle it.
MC - the ascent path (Alt a' Coire Duibh Mhoir) is steep but pretty well contructed up into the corrie. After that it gets slightly messy but still easy to follow. The path up to the right out of the corrie starts off a bit wet but gets better as you ascend.
The descent into Toll Ban is a real nightmare to begin with, especially if you stay to the left as the scree here is particularly steep and loose. I was advised to go well past the descent point marker cairn and descend over grass until it meets the point where it turns into sand. This was, indeed, the better option as it was easier to get a decent grip in the sand than it was the scree, so my advice it to stay well to the right hand side during the first part of the descent. After this initial steep stage there is a good path down through Toll Ban all the way to the road at the bottom. There were a few people doing the ridge in reverse when I was there, which seemed like a reasonable idea as the scree/sand would be less of a problem in ascent. I descended the Alt a' Coire Duibh Mhoir route earlier in May (having failed to traverse the ridge due to illness) and it wasn't a problem. A much easier descent (and shorter) than Toll Ban.
As for the 'blue' issue, I'm no photographer but I'm pretty sure all that's needed is a Skylight UV filter. I've got one on my old Minolta SLR and have never had any blue problems.
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby mountain coward » Mon Aug 30, 2010 11:21 am

Okay thanks for the reassurance of the Allt a' Coire Duibh Mhoir path Houdi - doesn't sound too bad then... think I'll still need someone with me for confidence though - probably the long-suffering Richard but could also do with a couple of others, then he can do the pinnacles, preferably with someone who's done them before, and someone can come back down with me...
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby Alastair S » Mon Aug 30, 2010 5:17 pm

Fantastic report and more absolutely stunning photos once again - well done & thanks :D

Can see £40 of TISO vouchers winging your way in the next few days :D
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby Alastair S » Mon Aug 30, 2010 5:26 pm

trickeyja wrote:metafor - not sure what causes the blue mountains effect, but ideally I think you need a polarising filter to stop it from happening (I don't have one).

A polarising filter helps made the sky bluer on sunny days. A UV filter is meant to help cut through haze when you are at altitude. I've recently got a filter that combines both UV & polariser (from Hoya) but have yet to try it out.

A bluish tint might also be caused by an inappropriate white balance setting on your camera. Depends on your camera but most have Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, etc... setting. If you leave it on Cloudy on a sunny day the colour balance will be out. Its safest to leave it on Auto most of the time.
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Re: Liathach Traverse (bypass path)

Postby trickeyja » Mon Aug 30, 2010 8:25 pm

Thank you very much for all your feedback :)

mountain coward wrote:Stunning (scary) pics there! Yeah - probably the best I've seen on here too! But it looks a b*** awful route - I'm pretty sure I won't be doing either the pinnacles or the bypass path but will have to do the 2 ends separately :( You said it was easy scrambling up onto the east end of the ridge - was it exposed? Anybody got any pics of the scrambling on the ascent path? That corrie always looks impossible to get out of to me and I'm sure descending back into it will be a nightmare!

I defo won't be going up or down the route you took at the other end though, preferring to go all the way down the Sgor a Chadail ridge instead - much better route I think! The other's just a shortcut surely?


houdi is right, the path up the east side of Liathach is very steep but easily manageable. The scrambling is only very minor and hardly exposed at all. The bypass path does have a large drop off the left but you should be fine if you have a head for heights (or just don't look down).
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